Posted by: brandextenders | November 18, 2010

Are you a Deer in Headlights When it Comes to Vector Art?

Proverbial Deeer in Headlights!

“A Deer in Headlights” is the appropriate term for a glazed, disconnected look many of my customers get when I ask them for vector or eps artwork. You may have garnered that look reading the first sentence and if so, this blog is dedicated to giving you just enough information to be dangerous when it comes to what works and what doesn’t for reproducing your logo.

 Whether you are silk-screening pens, mugs or flashlights; embroidering apparel or embossing your logo into vinyl or leather the end result all depends on the quality of the art the manufacturer receives. The best art is created using graphic software such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw, among others, and many companies have an in-house graphics department, graphic artist or other source that can provide art in the proper format.

 So what is needed to recreate your logo so it looks fantastic on the final product? First, let’s start with what won’t work:

  1. A business card (yes, your printer did a fabulous job creating them so ask them for the art files they used to make it look that good)
  2. Fax (do people still use faxes?)
  3. Beverage napkin with a logo drawn on it (yes, I’ve been given those to use)
  4. A piece of paper with smudges and coffee stains
  5. A JPEG file (I’ll explain why this is lousy art in a moment)
  6. A brochure (see #1)

 I could go on and on, but hopefully you get the picture. What you need is what’s called a vector image or .eps file usually created in the graphic software I mentioned above. EPS stands for encapsulated postscript which you can now forget as long as you remember the initials EPS which will show up at the end of a file name and may look like this:  mycompanysart.eps. The logos and images created in these files are high-resolution (300 dpi or dots per square inch) and when created correctly can be opened in the software and manipulated to adjust for size without changing the resolution.

 The problem with JPEG files (also TIFF and bitmap files) is that they are low resolution graphics (72 dpi) and while they may look great on a computer monitor they don’t reproduce well outside of your computer. Think of it this way; if you have a 1” diameter circle, which would fill it up more, 72 dots or 300 dots? The more you increase the size of that circle the worse the resolution of the 72 dpi version looks. 72 dpi art is grainy and the definition and clarity is lost, but 300 dpi stays solid and clean. One thing to keep in mind is that high-resolution, vector files are large so it may be difficult to email them to a business which usually limits the size of files they will receive. There are ways to send large files over the Internet, but that’s an article for another day (hint: Google FTP sites).

 So now you have the high quality art and as you hand it over to your promotional product specialist they ask, “Do you have the PMS colors for your logo?” Most of us know what PMS stands for in relation to women and hormones, but that has nothing to do with this discussion! PMS stands for Pantone Matching System and takes a color, assigns it a number and then gives the formula for creating that color with inks. For instance, PMS 321 (a deep teal color) is made by mixing 8 parts Pantone Process Blue ink, 8 parts Pantone Green and ¼ part Pantone Black. PMS colors are universal. You may also hear the term CMYK which stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (I guess CMYK sounded sexier than CMYB!). These are the four primary colors that make up four-color process, or the process used to print photographs in magazines, books, brochures, etc. If the art uses CMYK colors then each color in the logo will show the percentage of each color used. For example, c44%, M100%, Y30% and K95 is the formula for a specific color of purple.

 The only other point I’ll make here is to beware that weird fonts, skinny lines and small text or graphics may all be difficult to reproduce no matter how good the quality of the art. Each type of printing (screen printing, pad printing, hot stamping, embossing, etc.) has their quirks and may reproduce a logo differently.  

 This just scratches the surface of the world of artwork, but hopefully gives you enough information to look smart the next time you’re asked for art. Now you can go to your graphic artist and bravely say, “I need an eps vector file of our logo with the PMS colors embedded and can you put that on rye for me with a side of mayo?” O.K., you can leave off that last part otherwise you might negate any goodwill you gained from using the words vector, eps and PMS!


  1. Another favorite option is File Apartment ( Easy to use, fast, no software to download or registration, up to 1 GB, free option, safe, and secure.

  2. Great article. But if you can’t get vector production ready art, you can use the services of companies like Affinity Express. They help thousands of distributors, suppliers and retail company’s provide production graphics, digitizing, image editing, and other production graphic needs.

    • Thanks Reggie and using a service like you provide is a good alternative for people who don’t have access to the graphic tools needed to create vector art or turn low-resolution art into vector formats. Thanks for the comment.

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